Who killed Politkovskaya?

The case against those accused of killing Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya outside her Moscow apartment in October 2006 collapsed this Thursday as the jury aquitted all three suspects. One day later the presiding judge, Yevgeni Zubo, ordered the Russian Investigative Committee reopen the case,

“The fact that no one at all has been held accountable for this murder sends a very clear message to potential perpetrators: You can do it, and you can get away with it,” said Tatyana Lokshina, deputy director of the Human Rights Watch Moscow bureau. “Brazen killings have become almost routine in the Russian Federation.” link

Rustam Makhmudov, the man suspected of pulling the trigger, reportedly offered to turn himself in during the summer of 2008. However, he remains at large. The Guardian newspaper published a timeline of the Anna Politkovskaya murder case beginning from the day before the former Novaya Gazeta investigative journalist was killed,

5 October 2006
Anna Politkovskaya, Russia’s most famous opposition journalist, gives an interview to Radio Liberty. In it, she talks about her ongoing investigation into the Chechen president, Ramzan Kadyrov, expressing the hope that he is tried for numerous human rights abuses.

7 October 2006
Politkovskaya is shot dead in the lift of her block of flats in Moscow after returning from a shopping trip. Her killer shoots her in the chest and head, then flees, leaving behind an Izh pistol equipped with a silencer. It is President Vladimir Putin’s birthday.

10 October 2006
After three days of silence, Putin dismisses Politkovskaya as "insignificant". He tells the German paper Süddeutsche Zeitung that the journalist and Kremlin critic was "well-known only in the west".

Late August 2007
Russia’s prosecutor general, Yury Chaika, announces that 10 people have been arrested in relation to the murder investigation. He blames the killing on a Moscow criminal gang, adding that "unfortunately" officers from the FSB – Russia’s spy agency – and police provided operational support.

September 2007
The chief investigator in the case is demoted and several new officers are brought in. The investigation is handed over to a new committee headed by a rival prosecutor, Alexander Bastrykin.

June 2008
Prosecutors announce that the case is ready to go to court. Six out of the 10 original suspects are quietly released.

July 2008
Bastrykin says Politkovskaya’s alleged killer, Rustam Makhmudov, has escaped from Russia and is now hiding somewhere in western Europe. He fails to explain how he slipped out of the country.

19 November 2008
The trial of four men accused of involvement in Politkovskaya’s assassination begins at Moscow’s military district court. The judge announces that the trial will be held in closed session in accordance with the jury’s wishes. He is forced to overturn his decision after a juror reveals that this was not true.

19 February 2009
The jury is sent out to consider its verdict after closing speeches by prosecution and defence lawyers. Karina Moskalenko, a lawyer for the Politkovskaya family, suggests the defendants may have been the victims of an elaborate set-up. link

We’ll update this post and the timeline as the investigation continues. For now, I’ll leave the last word to Miklos Haraszti, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s representative for media freedom,

“Russia is a country where for years and years now, journalists who cover human rights issues and corruption are being murdered and assaulted… It has to be admitted, at the highest level of the country, that there can be no free speech in a country where the best journalists are afraid for their lives for doing their jobs.” link